The Riddle Of Rev. Jesse Jackson's "Negotiation Skills"
By Omari Jackson

In the wake of the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, alleged murderous attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction, and the US determination to tame him, with its consequences in human and material losses, it would be a joke for "anyone" to "welcome Saddam's unswerving role in helping to restore peace" in the Middle East.

And that's why I find it difficult, if not unrealistic, to understand the US Special Envoy to Africa, Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent declaration that he welcomes Charles Taylor's unswerving role in helping to restore peace in Sierra Leone.

At least, the Rev. Jackson should have now been convinced, in the wake of abundant and irrefutable evidence, confirmed by the State Department, indicating that the Liberian leader is one of the major players behind the tragedy in Sierra Leone.

Admitting his personal involvement in the human tragedy in Sierra Leone, Mr. Taylor was recently quoted by the Monrovia-based Star Radio as saying "Liberia may be in a position to exert some pressure in the (search) for peace in Sierra Leone." In what way? Mr. Taylor, in his unusual fashion, declared: "...because of [his] acquaintance with.... rebel leader Foday Sankoh." There you have it! It is an admission by the Liberian leader that he has some relations with the Sierra Leonean brigand whose forces have carried out the most horrible and atrocious crimes against innocent children, women and the elderly. They have been responsible in amputating limbs of their victims.

The recently released Human Rights Report on Sierra Leone stated that "Rebel forces... were responsible for many cases of deliberate mutilation, including the chopping off of hands, arms, ears and legs; attempted decapitations; and severe cuts with machetes... In other cases, rebel forces cut off the arms of men who refused to rape relatives." Are these crimes not against humanity, that should deserve a corresponding execution of justice?

BBC correspondent Fergal Keane, reporting from the Sierra Leonean capital, points out tragically that the trauma in Sierra Leone "is agony that words can no longer describe." The war in Sierra Leone, the BBC said, "is without a doubt the most brutal being waged anywhere in the world." Yes, and one of the brains behind it, is no other personality than Taylor, the man Rev. Jesse Jackson has commended for his "role in restoring peace in Sierra Leone." When the rebels had the upper hand during their onslaught on Freetown, Rev. Jackson, and his friend, Charles Taylor, were mute.

One question the Rev. Jesse Jackson would do well to ponder over is: Taylor is unswervingly playing a role to restore peace for whom? No doubt, Rev. Jackson is aware that the dead have no part in whatever is being done on the earth. Of course, he knows that peace must be restored for the living. But, the living are dehumanized and every hope is destroyed. As the BBC correspondent said," was less a battle than a crime against humanity- the worst in recent times."

Does that suggest to the Rev. Jackson that someone needs to be held responsible for it? It is sad that Rev. Jesse Jackson could not find it morally justified to condemn those behind the nightmare in Sierra Leone. But this is a deja vu of Rev. Jackson's behavior during the seven years of war in Liberia and even during the recent September massacre of innocent ethnic Krahns. Conveniently, Rev. Jackson demonstrated his skills of indulgence by keeping silent on the carnage.

So, it is not surprising that the Liberian leader has spoken about the effective "negotiation skills" of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and even urging the United States, "to continue to use him." President Taylor said in January that he preferred Rev. Jackson to other US envoys who he said are burnt out and have lost credibility. But to be more blunt, what are the skills of Rev. Jackson, anyway? It is, perhaps, Rev. Jackson's blatant silence over the government's lawlessness, and support for whatever role Taylor is reportedly playing. True, the US, as Rev. Jackson said, may have special obligation to assist Liberia if there is security, stability and democracy. And it must also include Taylor's activities, either overt or otherwise in the West African sub-region.

Rev. Jackson should also be reminded that Nigeria is considering "taking every effort within the international community to bring men like (President) Charles Taylor and his collaborators to justice," for terrorist acts suffered by Nigerian and other soldiers, leading to death, in their search for peace in Sierra Leone, according to foreign minister Ignatius Olisemeka. Therefore, objective observers of the Liberian scene are not amused at all of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's "negotiation skills," if there ever was any. No doubt, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Ahmed Kabbah of Sierra Leone had no personal problems, as far as their two nations are concerned. So, the recent meeting initiated by Rev. Jackson, culminating in a meeting in Monrovia between the two leaders, does not suggest he invented some unusual skills.

In any event, reports indicated that Rev. Jackson was "appalled" by the ongoing crisis in Sierra Leone. So, did that move him "to speak out his mind" and condemn those responsible for crimes against humanity? That would have been, in every way, an effective means of demonstrating his "negotiating skills." That possibility could have sent the message home that the civilized world can no longer accept any condition on the terms of terrorists.

Jackson's muteness and tight-lip in condemning those contributing to the human carnage in Sierra Leone, and before that, the mayhem in Liberia's seven year civil war, not only exposes his hypocrisy but also casts him as a man full of contradictions. As a civil right advocate, the reverend has always been aligned with blacks and minority interests in America, but when dealing with African or third world problems, the reverend has always been pro-regime or pro-government, even when they were the most repressive as currently represented by the Taylor government. His negotiating skills are not only flawed but self-serving since he's never been on the side of the suffering masses of Africa. From all indications, The Rev. Jackson's actions do not seem to promote democracy in Liberia, and must, therefore, stop meddling in the Liberian situation.

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